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TWO TRAMPS. BY LAND AND SEA.
"Travelers must be content."
"Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety."
THE translation of Petrarch, Plutarch, Tacitus, Terence, and particularly Homer, by Chapman, gave a great impulse to dramatic writers, and inspired a feverish desire to travel through classic lands where classic authors lived and died.
Shakspere was a natural bohemian, and while he could conform to the conventionalities of society, he was never more pleased than when mixing with the variegated mass of mankind, where vice and virtue predominated without the guilt of hypocrisy to blur and blast the principles of sincerity.
Art, fashion and human laws he knew to be often only blinds for the concealment of plastic iniquity, and were secretly purchased by the few who had the gold to buy.
By sinking the grappling iron of independent investigation into every form and phase of human life, he plucked from the deepest ocean of ad
versity the rarest shells, weeds and flowers of thought, and spread them before the world as a new revelation.
By mingling with and knowing the good and bad, he solved the riddle of human passions, and with mind, tongue and pen unpurchased, he flashed his matchless philosophy on an admiring world, lifting the curtain of deceit and obscurity from the stage of falsehood, giving to the beholder a sight of Nature in her unexpurgated nakedness!
On the first of May, 1598, William and myself determined to travel into and around continental and oriental lands, and view some of the noted monuments, cities, seas, plains and mountains, where ancient warriors and philosophers had left their imperishable records.
Sailing through the Strait of Dover into the English Channel, our good ship Albion landed us in three days at Havre, the port town at the mouth of the river Seine, leading on to Rouen and up to the ancient city of Paris.
Our good ship Albion was to remain a week trading between Havre and Cherbourg, when we were to be again on board for a lengthy trip to the various ports of the Mediterranean.
Our first night in Paris was spent at the Hotel Reims, a jolly headquarters for students, painters, authors and actors.
Le Mour was the blooming host, with his daughter Nannette as the coquettish "roper in." Father and daughter spoke English about as well as William and myself spoke French; and what was not understood by our mutual words and phrases was explained by our gesticulation of hand, shoulder,
foot, eye, and clinking "francs" and "sovereigns." Cash speaks all languages, and it is a very ignorant mortal who can't understand the voice of gold and silver.
"Francs," "pounds" and "dollars" are the real monarchs of mankind! William in a prophetic mood recited these few lines to the "boys" at the bar:
With circumspect steps as we pick our way through
Do you wish that the press should the decent thing do,
And give your reception a gushing review,
Do you wish your existence with Faith to imbue,
Sins are pardoned, sometimes, but the worst of all crimes
Is to find yourself short of a dollar or two!
Although the Bard delivered this truthful poem off hand, so to speak, in "broken" French, the cosmopolitan, polyglot audience "caught on" and "shipped" the Stratford "poacher" a wave of tumultuous cheers!
That very night at the Theatre Saint Germain the new play of Garnier, "Juives," was to be enacted before Henry the Fourth and a brilliant audience.
William and myself were invited by a band of rollicking students to join them in a front bench "clapping" committee, as Garnier himself was to take the part of Old King Nebuchadnezzar in the great play, illustrating the siege and capture of Jerusalem.
The curtain went up at eight o'clock, and the French actors began their mimic contortions of face, lips, legs and shoulders for three mortal hours, and while there was a constant shifting of scenes, citizens, soldiers, Jews and battering rams, yells, groans and cheers, it looked as if the audience, including King Henry, was doing the most of the acting, and all the cheering! A maniac would be thoroughly at home in a French theatre!
The play had neither head, tail nor body, but it was sufficient for the excitable, revolutionary Frenchman to see that the Jews were being robbed, banished and slaughtered in the interest of Christianity and the late Jesus, who is reported as hav
ing taught the lessons of "love," "charity" and "mercy!"
The "Son of God," it seems, had been crucified more than fifteen hundred years before the audience had been created; and although "Old Neb" of Babylon had destroyed a million of Hebrews several hundred years previous to the birth of the Bethlehem "Savior of Mankind," the "frog" and "snail" eaters of France were still breaking their lungs and throats in cheering for the destruction of anybody!
It was one o'clock in the morning when we got back to the hotel; and with the Bacchanalian racket made by the "students" and fantastic "grisettes" it must have been nearly daylight before William and myself fell into the arms of sleep.
Sliding into the realm of dreams I heard the "mammoth man" murmur:
"Sleep, that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast!”
Jodelle, Lariney, Corneille, Moliere, Racine, La Fontaine, Rousseau, Voltaire, Balzac, or even Hugo, never uttered such masterly philosophy.
After partaking of a French breakfast, smothered with herbs and mystery, we hired a fancy phaeton and voluble driver to whirr us around the principal streets, parks and buildings of the rushing, brilliant city, everything moving as if the devil were out with a search warrant for some of the stray citizens of his imperial dominions.